(Editor’s note: Jenna Ebener, a graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is a social worker at a school in Colorado for students with a combination of medical, cognitive and behavior disabilities. She relies on God every day to aid her on this wonderful, yet intense journey.)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). As I reflect on my first two years as a school social worker, I am filled with awe at how this journey began and how everything has fallen into place. Three dreams came into fruition in ways I could not have envisioned without God’s guidance. Those dreams involved animals, social work and Colorado.
I have always known that I wanted to work with animals. When I was a senior in high school, I was set on being a zoologist. Then one day, everything changed. Someone close was opening up to me, and in that moment, I heard God telling me I was meant to be a social worker. I come from a family of teachers, nurses and social workers. In that instant, I knew I was also destined for that path of helping others. I put my plans to work with animals on the backburner, trusting that God would provide a path in due time. I went to college to pursue my new dream of becoming a social worker.
As I was about to graduate with my bachelor’s degree and was looking for master’s programs, I stumbled across something online that made my heart stop. I saw a college with a Master’s of Social Work program that involved training your own therapy dog. I understood that was how God meant to connect these two dreams. I was so sure that he meant for me to go to that program, which would connect with a third dream of moving to Colorado. Yet, God again had a grander plan in mind.
He knew I needed to go to school in Iowa rather than Colorado. While there, I spent two years getting closer to family, growing in my faith, building both my spiritual and professional support systems, and becoming immersed in a social work program dedicated to empowerment and self-care. God even granted me the opportunity to take an online certificate program that gave me the background in therapy animals I so desperately desired. These experiences prepared me as God put all of the puzzle pieces together.
As I prepared to graduate with my master’s degree, God answered all of my dreams in one defining moment. During my job hunt, I received alerts for school social worker jobs nationwide, but I was hoping to find a school for students with intense needs. Of all of my searching, one school stuck out that seemed absolutely perfect: it was a unique special education school in Colorado, with the potential to be a wonderful environment for my future therapy dog. Within one week I had applied, interviewed over the phone, accepted the job and begun the process of moving out to Colorado. I knew one person in Colorado, I had not seen my school, I had not seen the interviewers, I did not even know my official salary; yet, I simply knew that was where I was meant to be.
The instant I stepped into my new apartment, that feeling of rightness intensified. There was no adjustment, no second guessing. I was in a state that was known for its breathtaking nature, in an amazing central location, and ready to start my career. Two years later, this contentment and assurance has grown. I am as passionate if not more about my profession and this beautiful state, and my plans of partnering with a facility dog are slowly coming together. By trusting God to take the reins of my life, I have been able to see my life come together beyond my wildest dreams. What more could I desire?